Fluid Power for Plants and Fungi

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Fluid power for plants and fungi described in Science, vol. 308, p1308, and ScienceNOW 27 May 2005. Plants and fungi do not have muscle tissue so most of their movements relate to growth and are therefore slow. However some plants such as Venus flytraps and Mediterranean squirting cucumbers are capable of rapid movements using some "creative engineering".

Two mathematicians from Harvard and Rockefeller Universities have analysed rapid movements in plants and fungi and found two types of fluid powered movements - one that simply uses swelling and shrinking cells to produce small movements, and one that uses swelling and shrinking to trigger the release of energy stored in elastic tissue through tearing, buckling or snapping. This second mechanism is responsible for the more spectacular plant movements, such as the closing of the Venus flytrap and plants that explode to disperse seeds. Ultimately the method and speed of movement was "determined by the physics of water flow through the tissues and the rate of fluid transport." Joan Edwards, a botanist at Williams College, Massachusetts, commented: "The study really elegantly summarises how two very different groups, plants and fungi, share a common toolbox of mechanisms for movements". Scientists hope that the study may help in the design of mechanical systems that use hydraulic forces.

Editorial Comment: It is interesting that science writers have to resort to using the language of creation, e.g. "creative engineering" and "toolbox" in order to describe living things, even though most claim that natural or random processes brought such clever mechanisms about. The reason two very different plant forms can use the same mechanisms is the same reason that two different machines that require movement for their functions may contain similar motors - the one who designed them knew what was needed and included the appropriate mechanisms. Using the physics of fluid flow to achieve some purpose is what any hydraulic engineer gets paid for. Therefore, this study is evidence that plants were designed by an Engineer, who thought of it before we did. Those who study plant movements have no excuse for ignoring creation or claiming the plant evolved it. (Ref. engineering, design, movement)

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